Changing Demographics Leads to Diversity in Greenpoint School

Public School 110, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Public School 110, Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

BY IAN THOMSON

Standing on the sidewalk outside Greenpoint’s Public School 110 moments before the first bell of the new school year rings provides onlookers with a sense of how the neighborhood has changed as parents of every skin tone arrive to usher reluctant kids into the playground. Inside, the word “Read” now radiates from the walls above the library bookshelves in seven different languages.

This school once reflected the staunch Polish community surrounding it, but a decade of gentrification has changed its demographics. Census data from 2007 indicates that Brooklyn now houses some 8,500 fewer Polish-born residents than at the turn of the millennium. Simultaneously, the cheaper rents of Queens have attracted almost an additional 5,000 Polish people. In Greenpoint, a mixture of Asians, Hispanics, Russians, and native Americans have filled the void. No longer can PS 110 concentrate on the land of kielbasa and Krakow. Instead, the school’s curriculum has broadened to offer its pupils a more diverse education.

According to Assistant Principal Anna Rocchio, around 70 of the school’s 360 pupils speak English as a second language with Polish children still making up most of this total. Although exact statistics were not available, Ms. Rocchio and members of the school’s teaching staff were clear that the Polish majority previously seen in their classrooms has waned.

Margaret Kaluza prepares for the new school year

Margaret Kaluza prepares for the new school year.

Margaret Kaluza, a Polish immigrant who has taught kindergarten class at the school for the past six years, has changed her lesson plans to reflect the new diversity. “I talk about the culture of each child,” Ms. Kaluza said, before explaining how every pupil will learn some aspect of each others’ respective countries by reading stories or seeing props from each land.

Speech language pathologist Geraldine Colakov is more impressed with PS 110 than any school she has seen during her 22-year teaching career. “If you’re only focused within a small community, you don’t have the opportunity to realize other points of view,” she said, adding that today’s Polish pupils have the benefit of wider teachings.

The Polish influence may have abated, but Ms. Colakov is convinced that PS 110 has progressed for the better. “The world is a diverse community, and this school is a microcosm of the world,” said.

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